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Protecting the enviroment and the global South

A few days ago I read an article in the German newspaper “TAZ” that made me think. The climate researcher Hans von Storch comments on various problems related to climate research. Among other things, he complains that climate research is generally too oriented towards the ideas of the global North and that the global South tends to be treated more like some kind of apprentice that has to do whatever he is told. As an example, he cites a meeting between Al Gore and Prime Minister Hasina of Bangladesh at the World Economic Forum 2017. At that time it was about the construction of a new coal-fired power plant in Bangladesh and Al Gore said he had the right to teach Ms Hasina. An old white man who knows where to go and a woman from Bangladesh who he said she didn’t know.

[…] The example is not about whether Bangladesh should build this plant or not. The question must be: Is it essential for the quality of life of many people there? But that this man from the West presumed to make regulations for the Prime Minister from the South to be allowed. […] Source: https://taz.de/Klimakrise-aus-Sicht-des-Globalen-Suedens/!5710052/.

The article made me think a lot. OK, I honestly believe that is is not OK to construct new coal-driven power plants. But on the other hand, it is Bangladesh that has to decide about the topic.  I can only agree with Hans von Storch when he calls for a particular “know-it-all” of the industrialised countries, which he associates with a new edition of colonialism. Since the internet now offers the unique opportunity to communicate worldwide, I take up the topic and ask environmental bloggers from the global South what they think about this topic.

I’m interested in whether there are other ways of thinking in the South to solve the problem and ask as many bloggers as possible for their opinion in comments, guest articles or through posts on their blogs.

To discuss this topic internationally, will be a premiere here in the blog: I will publish my first post in in English. ;)

OK, but enough written … After the incredibly long preface we should jump straight into the topic. It’s about the emission of greenhouse gases and how you can effectively reduce them without showing colonial attitudes or producing social cuts. And another thing is important as well: I do not want to separate the issue of CO2 emissions from the other environmental problems. The whole ecological point is a massive complex of issues, with many facets. Some of the problems have their origin for hundreds of years in the past. But basically, the dynamics are the same for all areas: The prosperous North often know better, ignores the South, but at the same time benefits from the massive economic north-south divide. So many significant inconsistencies are ignored or not included in the debate. So I think removing the CO2-emissions from the general environment discussion is wrong.

I will briefly list my concerns in the North-South environmental discussion, but I will go into the individual topics in detail later:

  • The entire debate does not necessarily take place at eye level. While the global North has already cleared most of its forests in the course of industrialization, now states such as b. Brazil “decreed” the protection of the rainforest. (Just as a reminder: “Historically, Europe was virtually covered by a single forest.) Bolsonaro, the Brazilian President, criticized this, for example. But Bolsonaro, he is a chapter of his own anyway.;) I’ll go into him later one.
  • The entire prehistory of the environmental problem, i.e. colonialism and the overexploitation of nature and mineral resources at the time, is not precisely at eye level anyway. I would rather speak of a western “obligation to bring reparations”. It doesn’t help either, as if everything “earlier” had been perfect and then the evil Europeans came. Unfortunately, even before the age of colonization, it wasn’t so great.
  • However, today (fortunately), we are no longer in the age of colonialism. Nevertheless, the reality of life in Africa has not changed as much as one would expect, and an entire continent is more or less used as a cheap source of raw materials or a low-cost landfill. Depending on what you need.
  • But if production is carried out in the global South, production is often destined for the North, and the local population has less of it because the products are exported cheaply. Soy and beef from South America are the best-known examples; production in sweatshops also falls into this category.
  • Another variant of how global imbalance is created is that certain things are no longer done in the North for ecological reasons, and they are simply outsourced to the South. In the United States five mines for rare earths have been closed in recent years because the ecological standards there are too high to operate these mines profitably. But since smartphones and electromobility are not possible without rare earths, China is now doing the dirty work. But this is certainly not an incentive to cut emissions

The list could probably be expanded at will. Still, these few points already show the fundamental problem: hypocrisy mixed with know-it-all on the part of the developed countries is the order of the day. Solutions from the global South tend to be ignored, and purely economic remain for the South anyway the crumbs leftover from the rich man’s table. And of course the filth of production, the war over the conflict metals or the pollution of the environment in oil production.

Alright and now Bolsonaro comes into play. Yes, exactly, this Bolsonaro, who regards the Amazon as a more or less useless landscape. Remember: He would like to burn it down overnight! But last year he – or rather his Economics Minister Paolo Guedes – had an interesting idea that briefly went through the media and was never discussed again. He suggested that Brazil could actually ask for money for the oxygen that the Amazon produces. (Source: https://www.derstandard.at/story/2000106758657/brasilien-plant-offenbar-fuer-amazonas-sauerstoff-weltweit-geld-zu-verlangen )
OK. Bolsonaro is not at all the politician that I somehow trust on any point. But he hit the sore spot in this case – and I already mentioned that above. After the North has already cut down its forests, it now wants to tell the South what it should do. And what the South has to do should be done as free as possible, because the Amazon is magnificent and worth protecting.

Well Since the North lives quite well from the South in many areas, this proposal – even if it comes from Bolsonaro – is simply not illogical. If the industrialised countries were to pay for the oxygen, which they now receive free of charge, the fires in the Amazon would end very quickly. I wouldn’t care about the label under which the felling stops. If it’s just about selling oxygen, then that’s it. But that brings us back to the subject of the Northern know-it-all: The thinking rules created by the global North.

OK, the call on the topic will follow shortly. ;)

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